Turkey’s Erdoğan in a tough spot in Syria - analysis

Following U.S. President Donald Trump’s stunt in Syria, the Turkish president finds himself in a tough spot where he is at odds with Washington, but also unable to rely on Moscow for help, the Arab News wrote.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton contradicted Trump’s Dec. 19 announcement that US troops would be withdrawn Syria quickly and that Daesh has been defeated, as he warned Turkey not to launch a military operation in northern Syria without coordinating with Washington first, the article recalled.

Bolton also said the US would only pull troops out of Syrian territory once there is a contingency plan to shield US allies fighting there, namely the Syrian Kurdish militias known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The ‘’understanding reached between Erdoğan and Trump during a telephone call in December, after which the US president announced his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria within weeks,’’ left Erdoğan triumphant, the article underlined. However, plans for Turkey taking over from the 2,000 US soldiers stationed in northeastern Syria, in what would have been Erdoğan’s biggest gain since his troops marched into northern Syria almost two years ago, have been derailed.

 Turkey’s strongman ‘’now he finds himself in a tough spot,’’ the article noted, watching ‘’helplessly as Russian military police last week entered Manbij — a strategic town that US troops had controlled until recently.’’

This has placed on hold Ankara’s plan for a third military offensive across the Euphrates to target the YPG, which Ankara regards as the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist organization that has been at war for independence in Turkey for over three decades.

The Turkish needed to stretch his muscles in Syria for a number of reasons, the Arab News article said, with the surprise US withdrawal potentially removing a major hindrance for the Turkish military expansion east of the Euphrates; keeping Syrian Kurds at bay and giving Erdoğan the freedom to change the demographic makeup of northern and northeastern Syria.

However now, the stakes are high, the article stressed, with and the possibility of an altercation with American, Russian and regime troops as Syria’s Kurds to negotiate with Damascus to hand over control of their areas to Bashar Assad’s army.

The most likely option for Turkey at this point, the article concluded, is to content itself with a minor role in the Syrian crisis in the hope of cutting its losses and reserving a place once there is a political settlement.